Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Whining Rocks

Bad whining: "But Mo-o-o-o-om, I don't want to eat coconut curry chicken! It tastes yucky! Noooooo!"

Good whining: "But Mo-o-o-om, when do we get to learn about the kidneys? We already learned about the respiratory system!"

I love the kind of learning that gets Mom scratching her head and asking the doctor, "How do you pronounce Vena Cava? Is Cava like CAVE? Or like it rhymes with lava? And is vena pronounced like vein-uh? Or venna?"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Movie Talk :: Gaslight

This 1944 classic, starring Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten, is completely saturated with suspense and drama. I was completely drawn into it and loved every minute of it. I first heard of this movie when I was reading "The Emotionally Abusive Relationship," which coins the term "gaslighting" to describe the type of abuse in this movie.

I love this kind of movie--packed with the kind of suspense that makes you just a tad uncomfortable, but without any substantial violence, sex or bad language. It reminds me of another great classic I recently watched: "To Catch A Thief." I wish people still made this kind of movie. It's just so, so, so good without any of the sleeziness that completely defines the Hollywood industry currently.

Incidentally, this movie marked the acting debut of Angela Lansbury, who plays a saucy and insolent maid. It was worth watching the movie just to see Lansbury playing such an uncharacteristic role.

Now I just need to find some friends who are willing to watch this movie with me again, so I can catch all the stuff that I didn't understand the first time...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Middle Ages

A renaissance--

not of birth,
but of death.

A rebirth of darkness--

Joy has fled,
There is a falling away.

All eyes look forward to safety, kindness and joy.

The light--

On the horizon, misty and dim
Will open arms to us all, in life or in death.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Twist my arm, why don't ya?

In reply to my previous post, I received a request for a video of my friend Craig doing his own version of Irish Step Dancing. Well, gosh, twist my arm. I was hoping you would ask!!

Before you watch, please observe the following cautions:

1. Hi, don't be scared.
2. No, he wasn't drunk.
3. No, not even a pint.
4. Yes, this is how we entertained ourselves after Sunday Dinners back at the homestead... Back in the day. Those were the days.
5. Yes, he's actually a VERY good dancer despite the comic quality of this video.
6. Yes, it's a dress. I don't remember the story behind the dress but it fits Craig nicely, doesn't it?
7. Sorry, ladies, he's taken. His wife is one lucky lady, don't ya think?

Without further ado:

And if you that didn't satisfy your daily craving of "Huh?" then you can see some more of my awesome friend Craig (beardless in this one) in the The Plague: a HALO mockumentary (around 3:30 in):

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here is a wee bit of jolly Irish fun for all you lads and lassies!

Now that's some fast fiddle!

In honor of a new season of "Dancing with the Stars" : Irish Step Dance military style?

Friday, March 14, 2008


Happy Pi Day!!!!

A few quirky Pi quotes to cheer up your celebration of the beloved 3.14...

Question: What is the volume of a cylinder with radius “z” and thickness “a”?
Answer: pi z z a

“If, in a circle, a line
Hits the center, and runs spine to spine,
And the lines length is D
The circumference will be
D times 3.14159.”

And since I'm talking about Pi, I'll admit something quirky about myself. I like to memorize Pi. I used to have more of it memorized but I have (mercifully?) forgotten a lot of it. My current digits stand at:


Don't ask questions. It is what it is. Happy Pi Day y'all! Happy circular celebrations!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Angel Face

I love using affectionate nicknames for my kids. Honey, darling, sweetheart, sweetums, babe, friend, etc. A few minutes ago, Elijah wanted some milk. So I said: "I'll get you some milk in a couple minutes, okay, angel face?" In true toddler fashion, he wanted to wrap his mouth around the funny word mommy just used. So he experimented, trying to say "Angel Face." But it didn't come out right. It came out as "In Your Face."

Sometimes my kids know themselves better than I could have imagined.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March Madness :: American Idol Edition

I'm going to stop feeling apologetic about loving American Idol and get serious.

Time to make some wagers! Winner of the American Idol March Madness will receive:

(a) Bragging Rights, and
(b) An authentic digital certificate of achievement from the owner of this site. You'll need to provide an email address if you win.

The rules are as follows:

(a) Anybody can play! Whether you're a neighbor, a friend, family or somebody who randomly google'd "I *heart* David Archuleta" and ended up here. Anybody is welcome!

(b) You have to enter before next Tuesday's show (March 18th). If you enter before tomorrow's results, you'll get 5 bonus points for entering early.

(c) Post your prediction for:

1. Top 10
2. Top 8
3. Top 6
4. Top 4
5. Top 2
6. Ultimate Winner!

(d) Scoring is as follows:
* One point for each correct answer for round one (top 10)
* Two points for each correct answer for round two (top 8)
* Three points for each correct answer for round three (top 6)
* Five points for each correct answer for round four (top 4)
* Ten points for each correct answer for round five (top 2)
* 30 points for correctly predicting the next American Idol!

(e) I'm pretty flexible. Let's have fun!

Your choices are:

David Archuleta
Jason Castro
Christy Lee Cook
David Cook
David Hernandez
Michael Johns
Ramiele Malubay
Syesha Mercado
Amanda Overmyer
Carly Smithson
Brooke White

Good luck! I hope you play along!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not half bad.

Not the kind of thing I'd usually post, but I thought it was kind of sweet. Enjoy.

That. Was. Dreadful.

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face...You must do the thing you cannot do."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Thank you to my friend who sent me this quote yesterday, after I told her how devastatingly badly I screwed up my performance! That quote explains why I walked out on a limb to compete in the NATS competition.

On Friday, things went great. The two judges that I sang for put me at ease and I was able to deliver a fairly smooth performance. The remarks on their judging sheets were very encouraging to me and I appreciated their positive feedback immeasurably.

To take one step back, all of my voice teacher's students got together last Monday to practice performing their competition songs. I got their late, looked terrible and was nervous. The audience told me I was fidgety, kept clenching my fists and looked dreadful. (Jeans and an old, worn black t-shirt.) So I really practiced trying to look the part for Friday and got very positive reviews from the judges on the areas that had been my weaknesses.

Apparently you can teach an old dog (I mean, youngish woman) new tricks.

My division (adult novice) was quite small. Only a handful of people. I knew it would be both devastating (yet relieving) to be cut from that small group. I was not cut. I was chosen as one of the four to make it to the final round. Let me tell you about the final round.

Final Round = singing a solo in front of a large audience in the Madsen Recital Hall at BYU in front of a myriad of music professionals and singers who are not in the adult novice division. Imagine the bright lights focused on you. One grand piano, a house full of people who will know exactly how badly you're doing, a couple relatives, and bright lights shining on you. Then the music begins, you open your mouth, and ...

It wasn't pretty. I absolutely slaughtered the song in front of that audience. People looked at me with pity in their eyes afterward. My voice teacher tried to be comforting, but in the end it was devastating. I just wanted to do my best. Or close to my best. Or halfway decent. I wanted to look fear in the face, spit in its eye and amaze myself with how well I could keep my cool.

I was simply terrified. I was shaking. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I couldn't sing. It was painful to me as I heard each off-pitch note coming out of my vocal chords. I have no doubts that I was the worst performer of the dozens who competed in the different divisions. I expected to get fourth out four in my division and lived up to my expectation.


I did it! I'm so proud of myself. I never thought I could do something like this and I proved myself wrong. I'm actually brimming with pride that I overcame my anxiety and fear and did something so far out of my comfort zone.

And so... I carry on. I keep pushing myself and hating myself for it. Isn't this what life is about?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Free Rice

This was a fun game, and it helps end up world hunger! Seriously. :) Check it out.

I couldn't bump past level 46, which was very annoying. How well can you do?

Here's another fun little Internet time waster: Travel IQ challenge. My score was simply dreadful, but it was fun!

Jekkyl & Hyde

My kids are wondering where fun, giggly Mom went. And who is this beast of a meanie who has replaced her?

No fear. I'll be back soon. After tonight hopefully.

My voice teacher is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS). Each year, different regional groups of NATS hold a competition for their students. It's a way of giving their students exposure to different feedback and critique than they normally get. It's something to work toward and set a goal for.

I think just maybe I was crazy when my teacher asked me if I wanted to participate this year and I said (after a lot of hemming and hawing) "Umm yeah, sure. Why not?" I'm not expecting to win anything. Last place is totally fine with me. Well, maybe not last place, but I don't really want to make it to the finals, where I'd have to perform in front of an actual audience. That would be terrifying.

In the meantime, I get to stress about singing in front of two judges. Funny how I sometimes fantasize (like so many others) about what Randy, Paula and Simon would have to say if I sang in front of them. Seems so funny when you imagine Simon Cowell saying, "That. Was. Simply Dreadful. Did you even realize you're supposed to be singing?" Less funny when you've actually signed up to get real life criticism.

So send some good vibes my way. I just want to make it past tonight at 9:30 p.m. (when I do my sleepy performance) without having a heart attack. That's all I ask. It would be an especially nice bonus if I didn't throw up from anxiety while singing. Staying on pitch and breathing would just be icing on the cake. But I can't expect too much.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


"It's just cold in here, isn't it?" remarked a complete stranger as she glanced around the waiting room. "The wall color, everything. Just cold."

I smiled in reply, trying to appear noncommittal. I didn't care how cold the waiting room. After a few minutes, the woman glanced at the Reader's Digest in her hands and said loudly to her husband: "Caffeine, tea and coffee. Six hours." I must have missed part of her sentence. The husband nodded in a familiar, noncommittal fashion.

A few minutes later, the husband remarked on a newspaper article he was reading. The wife replied, "Well, if we were expected to believe half of what's in the newspapers!" I thought about my blog entry last night, wondering why I was so turned off by this woman who distrusted the newspaper but took the Reader's Digest as Pure Fact. I decided it would be hypocritical to pursue that train of thinking any further and simply tried to look the other way as the woman threw a conspiratorial glance my way. "I am not a sympathetic listener," I thought to myself. "I majored in communications."

After a few minutes, the nurse called me back and performed the necessary pre-interview tortures: weight, blood pressure and even a photo. I pondered on my too-late wish that I had washed my hair this morning. Why should I care if I look greasy-haired and blotchy-skin'd for complete strangers? Shouldn't I be more concerned with inner beauty or at least looking nice for myself and family? These issues would have to be pondered later. The doctor was waiting.

I adored the doctor immediately. Some doctors have a way of saying, "I couldn't care less about you or your so-called illness" without saying a word. Some have a way of saying, "You and I could be best friends if given the chance, so let's work together" with their first smile. I apparently lucked out.

This was my second Very Expensive & Inconvenient Doctor's Appointment in a week. The first one had been extremely frustrating and had led to a referral of this new doctor, a physiatrist. Who in the world has heard of a physiatrist? Sounds like a misspelled psychiatrist to me, but the orthopedic surgeon had assured me he would help with my progressively worsening wrist pain. Two main feelings surfaced: annoyance and reluctance. It took two months to get in to the orthopedic surgeon--he was The Go To Guy Who Knows Everything About Everything. What could a misspelled psychiatrist do for me?

After chatting for a few minutes, the M.D. looked at my hands. It was unnerving. He asked me clench my fists, relax my hands, bend my fingers this way and that and generally tried to cause me pain. But the unnerving thing was the way he stared at my hands, as if they actually meant something to him that I could not see. I looked down at my hands. They were dry and marked by a landscape of miniature valleys. (Yes, I have old lady hands. Just ask to look at them next time you see me and you'll understand what I mean. My dry skin makes my hands look like they're 80 years older than the rest of me. )

My hands also looked incredibly pink compared to the doctor. This surprised me, since I'd always considered my complexion to be somewhat olive colored. (My husband tells me my skin is green, which I find somewhat less humorous than he does.) At any rate, all I saw was very pink, very dry old-lady hands connected to my wrists. But the doctor just stared and stared and would occasionally say, "Hmmm" or "Ahhhh" or "Nice" or "Interesting." I was completely undone by the fact that he could see so much of me that I was completely blind to. I felt my IQ dropping by the second.

After discussing my rather odd set of symptoms, he admitted that mine was a strange case. He'd seen stranger, though, and related some odd stories to me. His stories related to curious symptoms related to carpal tunnel, and he now recommended a Nerve Conduction Study to "rule it out."

"Rule it out, or ... rule it in?" I wondered and agreed to the testing. He had time right away so we went off to the torture chamber. Ahem, place with expensive machines that cost my insurance company a lot of money. He told me he would be sending shocks into my arms to test the nerves. I told him it sounded rather medieval. He laughed and said it wasn't bad at all, then related a very contradictory story of a patient who threw up his hands halfway through and said, "Okay! I give up! What government secrets do you want to know?!?" We both had a good laugh and I tried to hide the fact that my hands were becoming cold and sweaty. And they were shaking.

What can I say about the Nerve Conduction Study? Shall I write a sonnet to the joys of having a doctor send shocks of electricity into your nerves? Again: unnerving. Pun intended, but still relevant. This was followed by an even more evil (ahem, medieval) process of sticking a needle into my skin repeatedly. That would be joy enough for this humble writer, but he then proceeded to tap on the needle. Cliches come to mind: kick me while I'm down, give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it, etc.

As he tested my bicep, I had just enough nervous laughter in me to think, "I'll pay you double if you can find any muscle underneath all that fat." I suppressed a laugh and the doctor asked if he was hurting me. "No, no," I said and explained.

So the good news is that I've definitely hit my personal deductible for this year. How lovely to have spent $500 on medical bills by March 6th. It will make those future 2008 visits so much more enjoyable with a mere copay to worry about. The other good news is that I get to wait another two months for an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, to schedule carpal tunnel surgery.

I'm trying to find some more silver linings to this cloud, but I'm actually much less thrilled than I'd like to be. It's unnerving to get any unexpected diagnosis from a doctor. It's that same sensation that he can see beyond what I can see: I merely see dry skin and he sees carpal tunnel. Yesterday, I merely had wrist pain. Today I have carpal tunnel. (And yes, typing on an ergonomically-challenged keyboard is my favorite way to celebrate.)

Of course it's not true that my wrist pain turned into carpal tunnel overnight. It's been there, festering under the skin, laughing at my blindness. And that is exactly what has me feeling simply tired today: the realization that no matter how much I fight to gain positive control over my life and my health, there are things that I don't even know I'm fighting against.

Time to go listen to that "Happy" playlist on the iPod perhaps? But first I'll have to reattach the wrist splint that I took off in annoyance when it prevented me from typing.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What's on your agenda?

Maybe I'm a broken record because I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this before, but it gets me hot under the collar every time.

Why does CNN splash this headline on their main page:

Case renews debate on vaccine-autism link

And conveniently neglect articles like this one, which I do not recall seeing last month:

Study Finds Vaccine Preservative is Not Linked to Risks of Autism
(I was lucky enough to find this article in the "What's new?" section of my pediatrician's office website.)

They've done this before: push the autism/immunizations fears on the public with misleading headlines and articles that are blatantly fear-mongering. The result? People panic and choose not to immunize their kids for no good reason! I mean, hey, if you have a GOOD reason not to immunize, it ain't my business. But if you're opting out because of the fear-mongering press, that ain't cool. It just ain't cool, folks, and the folks who sell fear to turn a profit are responsible.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Talk :: I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better

I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better
by Joy & Gary Lundberg

After reading some well-written and some not-so-well-written books about human psychology and interpersonal communication, this book was a breath of fresh air. Rather than trying to appeal to the audience with buzz words and 360-degree paradigm shifts, this book made sense on a practical level for all sorts of situations. The first part of the book is essentially about codependency without ever using that word.

To summarize briefly, the book teaches how to respond to other people's problems in a healthy way. It teaches that even small children are capable of solving their own problems and just need others to listen and encourage them. Phrases such as, "I can imagine that was really painful/embarrassing/sad..." or "How do you think you can handle the situation?" are validating phrases, which is the way we tell others that we value their viewpoint. We say, "What you're feeling is valid" instead of "That's screwed up. Let me explain to you the correct way to think."

Giving advice is a common, unhealthy, mild form of controlling other people. It's like telling them: "You aren't smart enough to figure this out, so let me condescend to share my wisdom with you." When people are most confused or depressed, they need people to confirm that it's okay to feel confused or depressed. And if you can tell them, "Hey, I know you'll figure this out because you're strong and smart and there's nothing I could say that you can't figure out for yourself" then that's just icing on the cake.

Okay, sounds cheesy but it works. I've been practicing these principles with my six-year-old and he's responded to it extremely well. Now I wonder how my friends have put up with me all these years when I didn't realize how condescending I was being. The more you know, the less you know. You know? I find that I'm in the habit of trying to be helpful by dispensing advice. I'm cringing at how readily the advice comes to my lips. Bad Juliana! No! I am, as always, a work in progress.

I'm giving this two big thumbs up. If you want to borrow my copy or grab your own, let me know what you thought. I'd love to do lunch and hear what you have to say. I promise I'll be a good listener.

This concludes my four-part series of self help books. Reading these in the order I read them in was fascinating. It reminded me how human psychology is complex, yet made from interconnected pieces. At the root of all the buzz words, there is truth. Sometimes it's like the figurative needle in the haystack, but the search is worthwhile. If you decide to pick up any of these books, let me know and let's enjoy chatting about them.

The previous book reviews, in order, are:

The Verbally Abusive Relationship
The Emotionally Abusive Relationship
Codependent No More / Beyond Codependency

Regarding the Importance of Everything

Everything matters.

Although, honestly, a lot of stuff just doesn't matter. But it might. You never know.

I'm not saying this to induce an anxiety attack as you try unsuccesfully to follow a pattern of logic which doesn't exist.

Life is just like that sometimes: it's full of contradictions. Things that don't matter in the small scheme of things are vitally important in the larger scheme. Or vice versa. Or versa vice. But now I'm just being silly.

On Saturday, I attended a baptism. A young girl was on the schedule to play a piano solo before the baptism. She made numerous mistakes and looked fairly embarrassed after she finished. I have no doubt that well-intentioned people would have told her, "Don't worry. It doesn't matter." That's true: the mistakes didn't matter.

But the song mattered, and the mistakes didn't harm the song at all. It was beautiful and it served its purpose. I was very touched by the simple song in a remarkable way and I wanted to tell the girl that the song mattered to me. I never got the chance.

That girl will never know that her willingness to take a chance in front of all those people mattered to me. There are a lot of people who will never know how much they have mattered to my life. Some of those people who have impacted my life are reading these words. You're probably thinking: it's not me. What did I do?

You smiled.
You laughed.
You inquired.
You stepped aside.
You stubbornly stood in my way.
You hugged.
You sang.
You danced.
You wrote.
You helped.
You listened.
You took the time.
You kept going.
You didn't give up on me, after I gave up on myself.
You remembered.
You complimented.
You were honest.
You weren't completely honest, when that was the right thing to do.
You held your tongue.
You told it like it is.
You warned.
You held back.
You were there.
You weren't in the way.
You cried with me.
You played along.
You reached out.
You helped me reach inward.
You were there.
You were there.
You were there.

If you think it didn't matter, think again. Everything matters. Or at least it might.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Feel Good Music

I was in about 9th grade when I realized how powerfully music affects me. I realized quite by accident that I felt very angry and impatient when I listened to rock music and very mellow and patient when I listened to classical or religious music. I am not sure if others are affected as deeply as I am, but music is a powerful force in my life.

Sometimes I use my music in good ways, to cheer me up and give me strength to keep going. But some days I rebel against that and want to just enjoy feeling a bit blue for a while. That's when I listen to "Circle" by Edie Brickell. It's unhealthy and pitiful, but don't you sometimes want to feel pitiful for a few minutes?

Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians

I quit. I give up. Nothing's good enough for anybody else, it seems. And bein' alone is the best way to be. When I'm by myself it's the best way to be. When I'm by myself, nobody else can say goodbye. Everything is temporary anyway.

When I'm done being pitiful, I grow up and listen to something that doesn't suck the life right out of me. The next three songs are the entirety of my iPod playlist titled, "Happy." At the risk of not only sounding cheesy but actually being cheesy, I'll admit these songs mean a great deal to me. I hope they put a smile on your face or a little smile in your heart.

Don't Give Up (You Are Loved)
Josh Groban

Don't give up: it's just the weight of the world. When your heart's heavy, I will lift it for you. ... Everybody wants to be understood. Well I can hear you. Everybody wants to be loved. Don't give up because you are loved. ... Everyone needs to be heard.

I Believe In You
Il Divo & Celine Dion

Follow your heart. Let your love lead through the darkness. There's nothing that you cannot do. I believe in you. ... Be yourself an angel of kindness.

You've Got a Friend in Me
Randy Newman

When the road looks rough ahead, and you're miles and miles from your nice, warm bed, just remember what your old pal said: yeah, you've got a friend in me.